SUNNYVALE, Calif.--While Europe and the East Coast enjoy record highs, temperatures dipped to freezing levels last night in the San Francisco Bay Area. However, the biting cold didn't put off the masses who huddled in line for Blizzard Entertainment's midnight release party for The Burning Crusade, the first expansion pack for World of Warcraft. More than 1,000 people wound up forming a line that snaked from the front of the local Fry's Electronics to the side of the building and beyond.
The Northern California event was one of eight Blizzard-sanctioned shindigs held round the world to celebrate the release of the expansion to the phenomenally successful massively multiplayer online role-playing game. European fans in London, Berlin, Stockholm, and Paris were able to attend local launch events, while stateside fans in California had four options: Sunnyvale, Universal City, Fountain Valley, and Anaheim. Blizzard reps said the other California events drew similar-sized crowds, while GameSpot UK reported a sizable mob at the London event.
Attendees at the Sunnyvale event were able to get their games signed by members of the Burning Crusade development team, who were deployed to all of the events being held in the US and abroad. Some 15 members of the team wielded pens at Fry's, including producer Shane Dabiri and art director Justin Thivrat.
The line at Fry's began to form at 10 p.m Sunday night, when the first virtual adventurer queued up. The modest collection grew over the course of the day on Monday and began swelling around 9 p.m. The faithful hauled out assorted blankets, laptops, and, in one case, their own gas-powered generator to help pass the time. The crowd defied any attempts at demographic pigeonholing, as players of both genders, different ethnic backgrounds, assorted socioeconomic statuses, and varying physical conditions were well represented.
At roughly 11:45 p.m., the crowd began to be ushered into the store to start the signing process. At its peak, the line inside the building weaved its way past pallets of the normal and coveted collector's edition of The Burning Crusade. The line eventually split into two, with the 15 developers divided between two tables to help speed the autographing along.
Those present at the event were limited to two copies of The Burning Crusade per person. Strung out next to the serpentine line were tables offering other WOW products, including the World of Warcraft board game, a strategy guide sporting reversible crests for the new Blood Elf and Draenei races, and subscription cards. Fry's employees and Blizzard PR reps also handed out free WOW-themed posters and stickers to the giddy throng.